‘D’ for Different

The trouble began with an unhappy church attender. Let’s face it, which of us has always been happy with our church? It can be the pastor, the singing, the choice of songs, the things seen as important, or even as simple as the people who share that same space once a week. We are a motley crew, and hard to please at times.

 

This particular church member wasn’t just unhappy with the peripherals in his place of worship. He really loved his church, but didn’t like everything that went on in it, from the leader up. But what to do? Being a good and righteous man, he researched and studied, watched, listened and learned from others around him, both the good and the bad. But on top of everything, he read his Bible from cover to cover because he believed it to be the ’Word of God’ and if truth was anywhere, it would be there. He showed some wisdom because it was a good place to start, but not everyone thought the same. It got him into trouble with the church leaders.

 

It came down to two things, Bible interpretation, and church practice. You know how that goes. We’ve always done it this way, so why change now? It has served us well until now. We know it’s ok to complain between friends who may agree, but when you take your worries to the top of the church organisation, that’s when it can get difficult, and it did. They were not prepared to listen and instead dug their heels in and remain unchanged to this day.

 

This man was certainly ‘D’ for Different but the letter ‘D’ is also the Roman numeral for 500, and it has been 500 years since this not so young church leader literally nailed his colours to the mast by fixing his 95 differences he saw with the corruption of indulgences within the church he loved. The result was that his actions echoed around Europe and the World, slowly but surely forming an unstoppable movement which protested against the wrongs of the the church of his day. It had moved so far from the original teachings of Christ, it could no longer could be called ‘Christian’. To this day, adherents will refer to themselves as ‘Catholic’ and not as ‘Christian’.

 

My hope and prayer is that the reformed church of today never strays so far from the teachings of Scripture that it takes another Martin Luther to help us change course again. As a renowned theologian, he paid the price of excommunication from the church he wanted to help. We need never be complacent in our core belief that The Bible is the very Word of God, and we must to read it constantly, and live by its teachings. History is clear, and should not be repeated.

Hidden Heart

Have you watched the TV adverts which show how to be better, bigger, lovelier, softer, stronger, happier, etc etc…? They all have one thing in common. To be liked and loved, you need to change, and we are here to take your money and help you. So we are sold an image of a bodybuilder, a youthful looking 70 year old, happy, smiling holiday times, contented spouses, and again the list could go on. Each one depends on a change to the outer you. That part which others see. The superficial. So, does a change to the outside make a corresponding change on the inside? I fear not! Are we so stupid? Apparently we are, because the sales of these products increase every year.

 

The world is good, and getting better at convincing us that the answer to all our problems is a pill, potion, lotion, some makeup, or a work out. Surely we are not that gullible? Can we not see through the commercial sham? On the other hand, what if the change came from the inside? Would that make a corresponding difference to our outward appearance at no cost? Absolutely yes, and with 100% certainty! Ask yourself, who would I want to  spend the rest of my life with, a good looker or a good heart? Case closed. Once again, the Bible is not silent.

 

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of … all uncleanness. Matthew 23:27

Prayer

As a Christian community of believers, we all agree that prayer is important, and in fact, essential for growth. I can see this importance in two ways.

 

Firstly, it is our duty and responsibility to pray and intercede for everyone and anyone who asks for prayer, and even for those who do not know we are taking their name before the throne of God. These petitions can range from health, finance, salvation, Christian growth, to fruit of the Spirit and others. We don’t always know the impact our prayers have on others, and there are times we can doubt their worth, especially when we don’t see results. We are even prone to ask, “what good is it doing”?

 

But look at it from the other side. The side of the person who doesn’t go to church often, and may not know how to pray, but who equally knows that they want and need the prayer support of those who do! They know they need prayer, and they believe it works, and there is no reason for them to think otherwise. What do they have to lose? So I ask you, who knows the importance of prayer better, the pray-er or the person on the receiving end of your petitions?

 

When we see prayer from these two sides, we have no reason to think or believe our stumbling prayers are not important. They are supremely important, and in the hearts of those who know full well that they need them, these prayers are essential. Prayer makes a difference to circumstances, but perhaps more importantly, prayer changes us! The moral? Keep on praying, even if you don’t see any results! After all, the Bible says:

 

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16 NIV

Myopic

Jesus said to him, “Do you believe this just because I said I saw you under the fig tree? You will see much greater things than that!” John 1:50 ERV

 

We can’t always see the big picture, and so we settle for a small vision. We are short sighted, and Jesus’ words tell a story that applies to us today too. Jesus was calling Nathaniel to follow Him, and it appears from the text that Nathaniel believed because Jesus saw him under a fig tree from far away. That was enough to settle it for this disciple, but Jesus’ promise to Nathaniel that he “will see much greater things than that” is one for us to grasp too.

 

When we strain to see things too closely, we lose the ability to pull back and therefore lose context. Guilty? I think we all are at times. We become content in our little shells, going to church, singing the songs, praying and can miss the significance of our salvation through grace. We are greater than the sum of our parts.

 

It’s not the going to church, singing, or praying that saves us. These things are just the outflowing of a full heart of thankful worship for eternal life. While we journey through this life, we have fullness of joy. We may not always be happy because tough times hit us just like other people, but joy is different. In fact we are reminded that it is our strength to get us through the hard times when it can be difficult to smile.

 

And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 ESV

Failure?

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 26:3

 

My granddaughter is taking driving lessons, and doing very well. Recently, we sat and went through some driving theory questions together and I failed. Twice! As an older, more mature driver, I thought I would complete the online test with a clear 100% pass. How wrong could I be?

 

When I passed my test some 50 years ago, things were easier. I read and learned all the Highway Code at that time, but it seems that the rules would not allow me to pass today. Ouch. You would think that once you have committed to something, and set your mind to it, and succeeded, that would be it for ever. Not in the secular things of this life it seems, and certainly not for our driving test.

 

How glad I am that our God does not operate that way with us, or our salvation. Once we repent and hand over the reins of our life to our Saviour, He does just that. He saves. For ever. We don’t have to prove ourselves all over again because He will keep our minds in perfect peace. Did you catch the little word ‘keep’? To make sure we get the message, the apostle Paul gives Timothy (and therefore us) the following assurance which keeps our hearts, minds, and souls for eternity. We serve a great God, but there is a small condition. We must keep our mind stayed on Him. Now, is that such a difficult thing to do, when we consider the reward?

 

But I am not ashamed, because I know the one I have put my trust in. And I am sure that he is able to protect what I have put into his care until that Day. 2 Timothy 1:12

But…

Like everyone else in the world, we deserved to suffer God’s anger just because of the way we were. But God is rich in mercy, and he loved us very much. We were spiritually dead because of all we had done against him. But he gave us new life together with Christ. (You have been saved by God’s grace.) Ephesians 2:3-5 (ERV)

 

As a parent, hearing the words “but Dad” sent a shiver down my spine because I never knew what was coming next. It would usually have something to do with not liking what they were asked or expected to do. Human nature comes to the fore, and we show our displeasure with that single word “but”. The word is basically a very negative expression isn’t it?

 

I love the “but God” verses in the Bible, and this is just one of many. It simply means “in spite of”. In our case we are “like everyone else in the world, and deserve God’s anger”. But in spite of that, and because we “have been saved by God’s grace” He gave us new life! What a great God!

 

The question that often comes to me is this: Since this salvation is so freely available to all, why do more people not take God at His word and accept His gift? We must be a very headstrong and stubborn people to refuse God’s free grace. I can’t think of any other reason, can you?

Night Time

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

 

How long does your night last? In some cases it can endure for a very long time. In one sense this Psalm refers to a painful single physical night time, followed by the dawning of a new day which rises and brings relief, and even happiness. I can see another interpretation. Your night of weeping may have lasted a long time, with no sign of relief. You have prayed earnestly and with tears for a loved one, but it is still night in your heart, and theirs too.

 

I can hear the heartache of a weary one saying, when will it be morning? When will the sun rise and bring me relief and this promised joy? My night time has gone on for too long God. Please make it stop! This period of darkness may be due to your, or another person’s, health either physical or spiritual. It may be the uncertainty of making ends meet and as basic as putting food on the table for family. It may be the death of a very dearly loved parent, spouse or sibling and the light may have gone completely. When will I feel the warmth of the dawn?

 

Two things are certain in this verse. The night time and the morning dawn. We are assured that as certain as there is a long night time of weeping pain, there will be a morning sunrise of joy! David knew this more than most, but he was still able to see through the bleak darkness to the certainty of the coming joy. However long your and my night time lasts, let us hold fast to the assurance of the coming sunrise. It’s not a matter of ‘if’, but a matter of ‘when’!